The group Friends and Volunteers of Ashtead Rye Meadows Wetlands was launched at Ashtead Village Day 2012.
Jim Jones (Surrey Wildlife Trust), Ruth Hanniffy (The Environment Agency) and I took a pitch beside The Lower Mole Countryside Group at Village Day. The Leatherhead Advertiser produced an article "Ashtead Woman Wants Your Help" the week before to encourage interest.
Caroline Cardew-Smith signed up that day and has since gone on to create her own project on The River Mole. Geoff Ball joined us and during his time with us, he received a Community award. Thanks to Geoff we developed a core group of volunteers who work twice a month on projects.
David Baker had been to a few previous meetings and signed up that day. Our thanks to David for everything he has done over the years to keep an excellent Group together, manage the website and carry out many jobs behind the scenes. David received The Rotary Award last year at Village Day and is Chairman of Ashtead Rye Meadows Wetlands. Steve Bridges also signed up that year and has given us financial support and much encouragement. We have grown in numbers and soon might have to have a waiting list for volunteers.
This year we continue maintaining all the previous works, carried out over the years. The list is endless; river meanders, ponds, scrapes, berms, trees, hedges, footpaths, fences, dead hedging, ditches, bird counts by Peter Firth, RiverFly monitoring (Nigel Bond), Open Days, Village Days, Heritage Days and River Mole Discovery Day.
We are now looking at our next 5 year Plan. The Biggest Challenge for the future is to encourage the Local Schools, and groups of any age to visit. Some outstanding works still outstanding are improving access to the meadows, completing the meanders on the Centenary Field stretch of the river, and installing a composting toilet. The undergrounding of the overhead 33KV electric cables (Peter Williams) is a long slow process.
Cathy Brett, a Local Artist has joined our team, and we are very excited about the work she is producing and look forward to developing her involvement.
My husband and I have moved away from the area but will stay involved and visit often. The 14-acre site is protected from development in perpetuity by Fields in Trust and it is our wish that this Haven will be loved by many Ashtead Residents young and not so young.
The Rye Meadows are open on Heritage Weekend from 11am until 3pm on Saturday 15th September. See web site for details www.ryemeadows.org.uk.